CLINTON SHOWS COMMAND OF ISSUES, TRUMP OBFUSCATES AND RUNS THE CLOCK, LAUER FAILS TO FOLLOW-UP EFFECTIVELY
EMAIL ISSUE NOTWITHSTANDING HILLARY IS READY. TRUMP HAS WORK TO DO TO PASS COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF TEST
Hillary Clinton: Grade B (She could have handled the email questions better and should not have been so absolute about not putting troops on the ground.)
Donald Trump: Grade F (He said nothing new. He had no plans for any of his suggestions. He was unprepared. And he is clearly in over his head.)
Republican and Democratic presidential nominees Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton squared away Sept. 7 in the Commander-in-Chief Forum hosted by NBC’s Matt Lauer. Clinton was clearly prepared to answer the questions despite being peppered with questions about her judgment stemming from the fake private email scandal. In her explanation, Clinton profusely apologized and said she had learned from her mistake and she would not do it again. She made it clear that she did not send any documents marked as classified through her private email and explained that she ensured that every documents marked as classified she handled, went through a secure communication system.
But as expected, she was accused of introducing yet another excuse for her recklessness and endangering national security. Clinton explained that her communication in the private emails involved hundreds of other State Department professionals who sent the information back and fourth.
From Clinton’s explanation tonight about this issue, it is clear there is confusion that needs to be clarified. Conservatives continue to take FBI directors criticism of Clinton’s email practices out of context by asserting that Director James Comey found that Clinton was lying when she said she did not send classified information through her private email. But that is not the case. This is a complicated argument and both Clinton and Comey are right and speaking about two separate levels of classified information. Clinton’s argument is that she did not send any documents labelled on the header as “CLASSIFIED OR TOP SECRET” and the FBI director is saying some of the information sent by Clinton contained classified information. Not once did the FBI director assert that any of the documents sent through Clinton’s private email or server were clearly labeled on the header as “CLASSIFIED, TOP SECRET OR CONFIDENTIAL.”
There is a fine distinction here, Clinton appears to have been on the lookout for documents with clear headers on the top of the page or envelop stating “CLASSIFIED OR TOP SECRET” and Comey looked into the contents of the emails sent and found some of the information inside the email qualified as “classified” information despite the fact they were not labeled on the top of the document. In this case, Clinton is correct in asserting she did not send classified information because the header were not labeled as such and the FBI director is also correct that the body of the emails contained classified information. This shows there is a need to clearly label communication in State Department and setting clear guidelines to ensure all State Department communication are done in secure channels. Nobody has learned this better than Clinton.
If it were true that Clinton deliberately sent classified information through her private email or servers, there is no way she would have escaped indictment. This is a complicated issue and moving forward Clinton is better served to just apologize for causing the controversy in the first place and not go in depth to defend herself. The witch hunt on this topic, however, needs to stop as it does not further the dialogue of effectively vetting the candidates for the job of the leader of the free world.
Trump for his part appeared unprepared. He seemed more eager to praise Russian President Vladimir Putin than the US generals, noting that Putin, the leader of a communist country who assassinates opponents including journalists with no meaningful opposition has an 82 percent approval rating. He made wild claims against the generals and suggested that he would fire some of them if elected. He blamed President Barack Obama as having reduced the generals to rubble. It was clear that Trump does not understand the military hierarchy system that promotes individuals through ranks. Trump would be better served to understand that the position of a General in the Military is cultivated for many years and people just don’t get appointed to those positions.
Trump also said US should have taken Iraqi oil. For a presidential candidate to make such a suggestion is troubling. And shows just how unprepared he is. Taking the oil argument is a common theme in the extreme conservative argument that cannot be taken seriously as a military or foreign policy strategy. When asked how the US would take the oil, Trump said used wild west saying “to the Victor the spoils,” and said the US should have left a small force in Iraq to guard the oil as American companies such as Chevron harvested it. That would make the US and occupying force in a foreign land and Trump surely needs to get with his advisers to make him understand why that is a horrible idea.
When confronted about his past statements that he knows more about ISIS than the Generals, he was incoherent. Trump responded that he would ask the generals to come up with a plan within 30 days to quickly defeat ISIS. This is odd for two reasons. First, Trump has on many occasions claimed he has a secret plan to defeat ISIS that he doesn’t want to share publicly, and secondly because he is now saying that he would be relying on the generals he claims to have less knowledge than him about understanding ISIS. The truth is Trump, in this question, just like he answered most of the questions posed in the forum was just winging it and did not have an answer. It is naive for Trump to imagine that Americans would believe him on this topic that the generals, have all along had a solution and plan to defeat ISIS problem and they have been holding out on President Barack Obama. The reality is ISIS is currently losing and the strategy in place seems to be working.
Another telling moment about Trump’s lack of knowledge and readiness to be CIC came when Lauer confronted him about a tweet he sent out in 2013 where he said:
“26,000 unreported sexual assults(sic) in the military-only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?”
26,000 unreported sexual assults in the military-only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 7, 2013
Trump defended the tweet, saying “it is a correct tweet.” When pressed to explain what he meant, Trump took to his “many people” cop-out attribution to validate himself. The tweet seemed to suggest that Trump believed sexual assaults in the military were a result of mixing women and men in the military and he could not come up with a coherent solution to the problem. Some of the military members in the audience said they expected Trump to mention something to do with the ongoing efforts of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) to bring reforms in the military in handling sexual assault cases through her Military Justice Improvement Act. Trump also suggested the such cases should be handled within the military, but according to a 2014 Department of Defense report on sexual assault and prevention, 62 percent of military women who reported being sexually assaulted experienced retaliation.
The idea that mixing women and men in the military leads to sexual assault is ridiculous and outrageous coming from a man who wants to be CIC. Does it mean that men and women should not be in any such work setting? Does that mean men and women should not attend college together?
Trump should count himself lucky as he escaped a Sarah Palin moment when he provided a non-answer for a question of what he reads and does to help him prepare for the the possibility of him becoming US president.
“What kind of research are you doing now, what kind of homework are you doing, what kind of things are you reading as you prepare for the day in two months where you might be elected the next President of the United States? Lauer asked.
While Lauer was finishing the question, Trump was reaching in his pocket for a piece of paper he claimed to be a list of the names of 88 generals and admirals who endorsed him earlier Wednesday. He proceeded to point to the audience at the audience as said:
“In the front row you have four generals, you have admirals we have people all throughout the audience that I’m dealing with. Right her is a list that was just printed today of 88 admirals and generals that I meet with and talk to,” Trump said before Lauer cut in to redirect him to give an answer. “How much time are you spending on this?” A lot, a lot,” Trump responded. “And I’m doing a lot of different things.
Don’t forget we’re running a big campaign. We’re doing very well, I’m also you know, I’m very much giving it to my children and my executives to run. I’m also partially running a business. I’m campaigning, I’m running a business, I’m got a lot of hats right now. But we’re doing very well. But in the meantime I’m studying and I’m meeting constantly. You see, you see General Flynn and you see some of the folks that we have. They are scattered throughout the audience, so we have admirals, we have generals, we have colonels, we have a lot of people that I respect. I think I have learned a lot. I think also. I certainly, I really feel I have a common sense on the various issues that you are talking about.”
Did you hear any answer to the question in the above quote? Don’t worry, you’re not crazy. There wasn’t any answer to the question in there. Trump just put together a bunch of words and spoke for about a minute and a half saying nothing.
At that point Lauer got tired of waiting for an answer and vacated the questioning line, giving Trump a hypothetical question about something he said earlier in the day that animated him back to his sweet spot of attack Obama mode.
Trump’s lack of readiness for the job was emphasized by his attack on Obama in response to a question about the private classified intelligence briefing he received.
“What I did learn is that our leadership, Barack Obama, did not follow what our experts and our truly—when they call it intelligence, it’s there for a reason—what our experts said to do.” Trump said. “And I was very, very surprised, in almost every instance. And I could tell you. I have pretty good with the body language. I could tell they were not happy. Our leaders did not follow what they were recommending.”
It is absurd that anybody, especially Trump, would draw such a drastic conclusion about something so consequential based on perceived body language. His implications that the professionals who briefed him used the opportunity to show displeasure about Obama did not sound credible to many experts who understand the process. This was a shameless abuse of privilege for political gain.
While the forum gave us a glimpse of the candidates, it did not give the candidates enough time to dig deeper into issues and distinguish themselves in knowledge and preparedness. A lot of questions were not asked. For example, it would have shed some light into Trump’s thinking if he were asked why he did not serve and why none of his sons have served. The candidates should have faced questions about what they plan to do to better integrate members of the military into the society after service among other question questions centered on matters affecting veterans domestically.
In the end it was clear Clinton demonstrated better command of issues and passed the CIC test. Trump, him, he has a lot of work to do and as Obama said “he is woefully unprepared to be CIC.”